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086 Your Socratic Friend

How friends differ from flatterers and how business coaches differ from friends. Includes a plug for my favorite podcast, Philosophise This, by Steven West.


085 The One Silver Bullet

They say there is no silver bullet, but I think I may have stumbled upon an exception, when it comes to creating scalable businesses. Check out this week's episode.


084 Are You Weak on Sales or Attraction

In today's episode, I lament about the strategy of an IT resource placement company I recently met, which is selling itself to contractor candidates on the "strength" of its benefit packages. Listen to the show to find out how successful this strategy has proved to be and what could help them, as well as you del listener, to reposition yourself in the eyes of future employees. (Hint: the Entrepreneurial Operating System is a good tool to leverage to this end too.)


083 - High Expectations Work

We had some fierce conversations about my daughter’s pondering whether to drop a class with which she may have overreached. My wife gave her a hard time about it, which I felt was perhaps unreasonable. However, it reminded me of Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, who stated that “High Expectations are the Key to Everything”. Remember Steve Jobs? he wasn’t exactly a nice guy, as he had unreasonable expectations all the time. It was super-hard to work for him, but he changed the world and built...


082 - Three Ways to Exert Leadership

I received a question from Christos Nikolau the other day about the difference between Leadership and Coaching. Thanks for the questions Christos! Leadership is the action of influencing people to achieve goals. Coaching is one of the ways to exert this leadership. In today’s episode, I am discussing the three ways to exert leadership. The first one is Modeling, where you are leading people by setting a personal example of the attitudes and performance that you expect them to emulate. This...


081 - Selling in a falling market

Tune in to the story of how we sold a communications business in late 2008, when the bottom fell out of the mergers and acquisitions market. Hint: it was not about strong-arm tactics and yes, speed was a HUGE factor.


080 - The Spouse Behind the Sale

When you are a buyer of a business or an investment banker, it is critical to figure out the motivation of the seller. In today's episode, I tell the story of the reluctant seller, whose spouse was driving the transaction that he wasn't committed to make happen. Eventually, the deal worked out great for the seller and there are two lessons in this tale worth hearing and processing. Your succession is success!


079 - A More Compelling Future

There are three main triggers for the succession of the business owner: (1) necessity, (2) an irresistible offer, and my favorite: (3) a more compelling future. In today’s episode, I tell the story of a former client of mine, Csaba Kovacs, a Hall of Fame hockey player (not in the NHL, but still a Big Deal) who initiated his exit to realize a much bigger dream, that was to benefit not just him, his family and his associates, but his country. He sold his business to devote his time and energy...


078 - Smart and Lazy People

One of my favorite books is “On War” from an early 19th century Prussian general, Claus von Clausewitz. This is possibly the most famous book on military strategy after “Art of War”, that most of you have heard of. In his book Clausewitz talks about grouping officers into four clusters in terms of their intelligence and diligence. There are the dumb and lazy officers, who should be left alone. The smart and diligent officers must be taken great care of, as they will get everything done and...


077 - Chief Enabling Officer

One of my clients, who runs a major advertising agency in Richmond, introduced himself to our Vistage CEO peer group as the “Chief Enabling Officer”. In today’s episode, I share with you a story about one of my early bosses, Hassan, who was a Chief Enabling Officer of the Structured Finance department of the bank where I worked 20 years ago. Hassan never seemed to be doing much work himself, other than coaching the twelve of us in the department... lobbying senior management for resources......


076 - Pick One You Trust and Trust Them

In today’s episode, I am sharing two stories from my time as an investment banker. The first is about a large construction company, where the owners got greedy and second-guessed their advisor. The second is a company where the seller had complete confidence in us. As you may have guessed it, these two deals turned out very differently. Listen to my stories making the case that if you cannot trust your investment banker, you should not hire him or her. Do your due diligence up front and...


075 - Leave No Room for Excuses

Can you recall the life and death Hungary-Portugal soccer game at the Euro 2016 championships? After Hungary snatched the lead the third time with a goal bouncing off a defender, Cristiano Ronaldo was caught on camera in a fit of frustration. This scene was circulated on the internet as “evidence” of Ronaldo being a “spoilt” star who cannot control himself. Check the video on Youtube: I drew the opposite conclusion. Listen to the...


074 - Become Your Own Client

A client of mine who owns a business development consulting firm has recently found his pipeline drying up. It looked like a case of the “cobbler’s son going barefoot”, as his employees were stretched thin servicing clients and claimed to have had no time left to drum up business. We brainstormed different solutions until we arrived at the conclusion. He had to become his own client. Listen to today’s show to learn the details of our finding and how that strategy can fix my client’s...


073 - The Constructive Role of Procrastination

Procrastination, the action of postponing or delaying something that needs to be accomplished, is generally seen as a negative habit, that we should all try to kick. Psychologist attribute it to perfectionism, laziness, distraction and other negative factors. However, I have found procrastination to affect almost everyone to some extent, even diligent and disciplined people. In today’s episode, I am making the case that procrastination may be a useful activity that allows us to get things...


072 - The Cost of Not Creating Succession

Many ask me why “succession” is such a big deal. You will take care of it when you want to retire or sell the business. And what if you just want to work into the sunset? In today’s episode, I share with you the six most important reasons why it is a fatal mistake to neglect succession. Some of these reasons will surprise you, especially the last one.


071 - Three Ways to Value a Business

We used to make elaborate valuations to clients, sometimes using 6-8 different methods to value a business. Some clients need this sophistication and are willing to pay for it. However, there are really three main ways to value a business. The first one is the market-based valuation. Based on a multiple of a metric, which could be revenue, net profit, EBIT (Earnings before Interest and Tax) and most frequently EBITDA (EBIT plus Depreciation and Amortization). EBITDA is the best proxy for...


070 - Growth is Where the Discomfort is

Had a great session with one of my Vistage members this morning. We reflected on the last meeting, which she thought was one of the best… while I thought it was a disaster… (check out episode 053). I came to realize that that for any of our meeting to be worthwhile, there must be some drama or conflict happening. We learn nothing if we are just nice and courteous and don’t bank heads or confront each other. Personal growth requires stretching ourselves, which is uncomfortable. Tune into...


069 - Ways to Pay a Purchase Price

There is an investment banking proverb which says: “You can name your price if I am allowed to name my terms.” The purchase price for a business can be paid in different forms allowing the buyer to save cash and share some of the risks of the business with the seller. The most common is of course cash, but it's rare that 100% is paid up front. Typically 10-30% of a cash price is held in escrow to secure the indemnities the seller is willing to grant to support their representations and...


068 - Explosive Family Transition

Last week at a Charlotte Vistage seminar a colleague of mine told us a story of a family business transition that was potentially explosive. The founder bequeathed a family business to his son and daughter, who became equal shareholders. The founder’s son took over running the business while his daughter stayed out of the company and continued her career. In a few years, the business was doubled in size and tripled its profits. When the founder got sick, my friend got into an uncomfortable...


067 - Let Your Cash Flow Build Your Business

I am surprised to see the number of loans and financing offers banks and lending companies issue to small business owners. And when those businesses start to make a profit, venture capital companies jump into the fray. It is not money these start-ups need but talent and time to create a differentiated service that is able to gain traction in the marketplace. Large successful companies like Google often spin off entrepreneurial talent supported by minimal resources to let them experiment...